Follow by Email

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Better than I can say it.

Lifted from the Young Antique Collector's Blog- by Andrew & Holly. Link to their blog on the right. This is a more refined statement of rage.

The real competition

Recently, I've been having a riveting, albeit blood pressure-raising, conversation with an Indiana friend in the trade. He received the newest Pottery Barn catalog where they are hawking bad reproductions of 19th-century printer's chests and other things very clearly based on antiques. It's almost like they look through auction catalogs or go to shows to get inspired, and then send the plans to China to cheaply manufacture knock-offs.

And then the new Restoration Hardware catalog landed in both of our mailboxes. Hoo-boy...have you all seen this? Gary Friedman, the CEO, states, "No longer mere 'retailers' of home furnishings, we are 'curators' of the best historical design the world has to offer."

Um..excuse me? Seriously? I don't know what's more offensive, the fact that he described himself as a curator or that he claimed to have stuff that's better designed than the originals that his company has so poorly imitated.

I'm terribly sorry to inform you, Mr. Friedman, but if you want to find the curators of the best historical design, you need to look at places like Winterthur, the Met, and the MFA-Boston, as well as at antique auctions and shows around the country. Additionally, your customers would be better served by going to auctions, shows, and flea markets, where they will find better design AND better quality, all for a better price and in objects that will be worth something in 10 years.

Folks, you want to know where the (potential) young collectors are? They are at Pottery Barn, Target, Ikea, and they are shopping via catalogs like Restoration Hardware. They may not be as interested in history or art as you are or we are, but they are interested in style, quality, and price...and they aren't finding the best at those places, although they think they are. We need to get their attention and draw it to our business. So next time you see a Pottery Barn catalog on the coffee table of a friend or relative, surreptitiously swap it with an auction catalog or a copy of Maine Antique Digest, The Magazine Antiques or Antiques and Fine Art.

(And to my museum friends, you need to raise a stink with American Association of Museums...they need to protect the title "curator" the way that the American Library Association protects the title "librarian.")


  1. Great post. I am a show dealer and gallery/store owner in LA. We are constantly challenged by people that come into the gallery with cameras. We are flattered that they are inspired to take pictures. And we certainly don't want to scare away designers and set decorators by blanket no photo rules. Not to mention cranky stores with lots of rules suck. But, this has become a real problem. We all know that those "Gees Bend" quilts made by the Pottery Barn will show up at antique shows. Shame on the Arnetts. They have all but killed the AA quilt market now. And shame on the American Folk Art Museum for allowing copies to be made of iconic pieces. I don't doubt that many people will be fooled by that copy as well.

  2. The larger problem isn't that customers would be fooled by the knock-offs (although some might). It is telling potential customers that Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware and the like are their source for "Heirloom Quality" and "One of a Kind" items. You don't need to go to antique shops, shows, malls, auctions & flea market to buy genuine
    Heirloom Quality"- we'll make it for you in Asia.

  3. Don't take yourselves so seriously. Where are non-wealthy supposed to buy furniture? If they like art or become interested in it as a result, put 1 in your "win" column, but don't create por contribute to the idea that anyone takes mass retailers literally when they see marketing copy in their catalogs.

  4. Excellent story and very good points made by both Anonymous and Jon. Can you even begin to imagine the extremes to which these issues are taken in my field, antiquities and ancient art. If I write any more I'll blow a gasket -- best to just try and enjoy the weekend!

  5. Anonymous,

    I don't think anyone whose recent posts contain photos of Ronald McDonald's head can be called too serious. The mis-conception is that antiques are only for the wealthy. The are many items that can be purchased by those on the tightest of budgets that are superior in quality, construction and value retention than many items found at the mall.